Worcester City Council urges state not to close Taunton State Hospital
By Lee Hammel TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER — The City Council voted 10-0 tonight to urge the state Legislature to prevent the closing of Taunton State Hospital and create a commission to study the “mental health crisis” in the state.
City officials and Cental Massachusetts legislators are particularly interested in the 169-bed hospital, which the state Department of Mental Health plans to close by Dec. 31, because 124 of its beds would be transferred to Worcester. DMH plans to open the 320-bed Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital in August.
Members of a commission planning the new hospital have complained that they believed it was to replace only the aging state hospitals in Worcester and Westboro and expressed surprise that it also will take most of the beds from Taunton.
The state House of Representatives recently voted in favor of the Patrick administration's plan to close Taunton State before any study commission reports, but it added money for DMH to contract for 30 continuing care beds in the Taunton area.
Urging adoption of the resolution, Mayor Joseph M. Petty asked what will happen to the patients who will not be able to get into the Worcester Recovery Center because some of the beds are being used by people from Southeastern Massachusetts. He also said those patients who are discharged into the community will take a toll on social services and police resources in Worcester.
The resolution states that “Worcester does not have the housing, public safety and treatment infrastructure to accommodate an influx of people who need access to an array of mental health services.”
Video of Worcester City Council Meeting
This is a link to the video of last night’s Worcester City Council meeting. It was a long meeting, so forward it to about 24 minutes in to see the approximately 20 minutes of proceedings pertaining to the Council resolution to support Stop and Study.
RESOLUTION FOR LEGISLATIVE ACTION TO PROTECT MENTAL HEALTH CARE SERVICES FOR RESIDENTS OF GREATER WORCESTER
WHEREAS: May is Mental Health Month;
WHEREAS: The State's Administration has proposed the closure of Taunton State Hospital and claims it will move 120 of the 169 beds to the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital; and
WHEREAS: The Taunton State Hospital closure comes at a time when the state has lost more than 200 mental health inpatient beds, going from 834 beds in 2010 to the current total of 626 beds, also coming at a time when the state has slashed its mental health care spending more than any state in New England; and
WHEREAS: The new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital was made to compensate for the closure of Westborough State Hospital a number of years ago and was never intended to provide care to patients served by Taunton State Hospital; and
WHEREAS: UMass/Health Alliance closed its locked inpatient psychiatric unit at its Burbank campus in Fitchburg last year and St. Vincent Hospital has announced the closure of its 15-bed locked inpatient psychiatric unit in Worcester by the end of 2012; and
WHEREAS: Reports from clinicians and mental health advocates indicate that patients seeking mental health treatment languish in hospital emergency rooms all over the state, including at our Worcester hospitals, anywhere from four hours to, in some cases, for up to three weeks waiting for a bed or a mental health service somewhere in the state; and
WHEREAS: Many families do not have the means to travel from Taunton to Worcester independently, and our state's public transportation system makes it nearly impossible, and having family members available to support those with mental illness is a crucial element to quick and full recovery; and
WHEREAS: The City of Worcester does not have the housing, public safety and treatment infrastructure to accommodate an influx of people who need access to an array of mental health services; Now Therefore, Be It
RESOLVED: That the City Council of the City of Worcester hereby calls upon our State Legislature to support efforts to prevent the closure of Taunton State Hospital and to establish an independent commission to comprehensively studv and recommend needed solutions to the mental health care crisis in our state.